1871 Census (Canada)

How the Census Was Collected

The 1871 Census marked the first regularly scheduled collection of national statistics. It officially began April 2, 1871.

A total of 206 commissioners were appointed to coordinate the census. Reporting to the commissioners, 2,789 enumerators were then assigned to a clearly defined area.

Enumerators visited 206 census districts, divided into 1,701 sub-districts. These units were made up of cities, towns, groups of townships, Indian reserves, and other less well-defined areas.

Enumerators collected information for 3,485,761 individuals distributed as follows:

  • New Brunswick (285,594)
  • Nova Scotia (387,800)
  • Ontario (1,620,851)
  • Quebec (1,191,516)

From Paper to Microfilm

The 1871 Census returns were first microfilmed in 1967. Only Schedule 1 was microfilmed (microfilms C-601 to C-716). Those microfilms are now obsolete, although some libraries still hold copies of them.

The 1871 Census was re-filmed in 1975 (microfilms C-9888 to C-10570). Those reels include all 9 schedules.

The digitized images found on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website have been made by scanning the microfilms of the 1871 Census. As exact copies, a page that was unreadable on microfilm will also be unreadable on your computer screen. Title pages from the microfilm have not been scanned, and contained this information:

  • Census year (i.e. 1871)
  • Province
  • District number and name
  • Sub-district number and name
  • Number of pages in the sub-district. The pages are not always ordered consecutively and in some cases may not exist.

These records and those of previous censuses are described in the Statistics Canada fonds, formerly Record Group 31 (RG31).

Column Headings and Interpretation

  • Column 1. Numbered in the order of visitation: vessels
    A count of the vessels. Numbered in the order visited by the enumerator.

    Column 2. Numbered in the order of visitation: shanties
    A count of the shanties. Numbered in the order visited by the enumerator.

    Column 3. Numbered in the order of visitation: dwelling houses in construction
    A count of the houses in construction. Numbered in the order visited by the enumerator.

    Column 4. Numbered in the order of visitation: dwelling houses uninhabited
    A count of the houses uninhabited. Numbered in the order visited by the enumerator.

    Column 5. Numbered in the order of visitation: dwelling houses inhabited
    A count of the houses inhabited. Numbered in the order visited by the enumerator.

    Column 6. Numbered in the order of visitation: families
    A count of the family or household. Two or more families that occupied the same house were numbered separately.

    Column 7. Names
    Entered with the surname (or last name) first.

    Column 8. Sex
    Denoted by the letter “m” for male and “f” for female.

    Column 9. Age

    • At last birthday.
    • For children under one year of age, fractions were used (for example, for 2 months, "2/12" was indicated).

    Column 10. Born within last twelve months
    Month of birth for infants whose names were entered in the 7th column and that were still alive.

    Column 11. Country or province of birth

    • For people born outside of Canada, the name of the country of origin (for example, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, and so on).
    • For people born in Canada, the name of the province.

    Column 12. Religion

    • The religion to which an individual claimed to belong, written in full.
    • Abbreviations were used if the name was too long.

    Column 13. Origin
    As given by the person questioned.

    Column 14. Profession, occupation or trade

    • The profession, trade, or occupation, entered in full as given.
    • When sons followed the professions or occupations of their fathers, and were associated with them, the same description was inserted.
    • In the case of women, unless they had a definite occupation besides their share in the work of the family or household, the column was filled with the sign (--).

    Column 15. Married or widowed
    Denoted by the letter “m” for married and “w” for widow and the sign (--) for all others, including children.

    Column 16. Married within the last twelve months
    To record marriages that occurred within the last 12 months, the month was inserted under the husband’s name and the sign (“) was used for the wife.

    Column 17. Instruction: going to school
    A "1" indicates that the individual was attending school.

    Column 18. Instruction: over 20 years unable to read
    A "1" indicates that the individual was unable to read.

    Column 19. Instruction: over 20 years unable to write
    A "1" indicates that the individual was unable to write.

    Column 20. Infirmities: deaf and dumb

    Column 21. Infirmities: blind

    Column 22. Infirmities: unsound mind
    The degree of the infirmity needed to have reached the stage of incapacity to be noted. A "1" indicates the relevant infirmity.

    Column 23. Dates of operations and remarks
    Comments were to be made only in very special cases. This is where the enumerator entered the day's date.

  • Column 1. Names of deceased
    Column 2. Sex
    Column 3. Age
    Column 4. Born within last twelve months
    Column 5. Religion
    Column 6. Country or province of birth
    Column 7. Profession, occupation or trade
    Column 8. Married or widowed
    Column 9. Married during last twelve months
    Column 10. Month of death
    Column 11. Disease or other cause of death
    Column 12. Remarks

  • Reference to schedule 1

    Column 1. Page
    Column 2. Number

    Public institutions

    Column 3. Special or legal name of institution, character and classification
    Column 4. Number of buildings
    Column 5. Number of inmates

    Real estate

    Column 6. Grand total of acres of land owned
    Column 7. Number of town or village building lots
    Column 8. Number of dwelling houses owned
    Column 9. Number of warehouses, stores, factories, shops, etc., owned
    Column 10. Number of barns and stables owned

    Vehicles and implements

    Column 11. Number of carriages and sleighs
    Column 12. Number of cars, wagons, and sleds
    Column 13. Pleasure or common boats
    Column 14. Number of ploughs and cultivators
    Column 15. Reapers and mowers
    Column 16. Horse rakes
    Column 17. Thrashing machines
    Column 18. Fanning mills
    Column 19. Remarks

  • Reference to schedule 1

    Column 1. Page
    Column 2. Number

    Occupied lands

    Column 3. Range or concession
    Column 4. Number of lot
    Column 5. Owner, tenant or employee
    Column 6. Total number of acres occupied
    Column 7. Number of acres improved
    Column 8. Number of acres in pasture
    Column 9. Number of acres of salt or dyked marsh
    Column 10. Number of acres in gardens or orchards


    Column 11. Acres
    Column 12. Spring wheat: bushels
    Column 13. Fall wheat: bushels
    Column 14. Bushels of barley
    Column 15. Bushels of oats
    Column 16. Bushels of rye
    Column 17. Bushels of peas
    Column 18. Bushels of beans
    Column 19. Bushels of buckwheat
    Column 20. Bushels of corn

    Root crops

    Column 21. Potatoes: acres
    Column 22. Potatoes: bushels
    Column 23. Bushels of turnips
    Column 24. Bushels of mangel wurtzel and other beets
    Column 25. Bushels of carrots or other roots

    Hay crop

    Column 26. Acres
    Column 27. Ton of 2,000 lbs or bundles of 16 lbs of hay
    Column 28. Bushels of grass or clover seed
    Column 29. Bushels of flax seed

    Plants, fruits and other products

    Column 30. Pounds of flax and hemp
    Column 31. Pounds of hops
    Column 32. Pounds of tobacco
    Column 33. Pounds of grapes
    Column 34. Bushels of apples
    Column 35. Bushels of pears, plums, and other fruits
    Column 36. Pounds of maple sugar

  • Reference to schedule 1

    Column 1. Page
    Column 2. Number

    Live stock

    Column 3. Horses over 3 years old
    Column 4. Colts and fillies
    Column 5. Working oxen
    Column 6. Milk cows
    Column 7. Other horned cattle
    Column 8. Sheep
    Column 9. Swine
    Column 10. Hives of bees

    Animal products

    Column 11. Cattle killed or sold for slaughter or export
    Column 12. Sheep killed or sold for slaughter or export
    Column 13. Swine killed or sold for slaughter or export
    Column 14. Pounds of butter
    Column 15. Pounds of home-made cheese
    Column 16. Pounds of honey
    Column 17. Pounds of wool

    Home-made fabrics

    Column 18. Yards of home-made cloth and flannel
    Column 19. Yards of home-made linen


    Column 20. Beaver’s skins
    Column 21. Musk rats
    Column 22. Minks
    Column 23. Otters
    Column 24. Seals
    Column 25. Martins
    Column 26. Foxes
    Column 27. Bears
    Column 28. Moose, caribou and deer
    Column 29. Number of all other furs

  • Column 1. Kind of industrial establishment. Name of proprietor or company, and other such information
    Column 2. Fixed capital invested in $
    Column 3. Floating capital employed in $
    Column 4. Number of working months in the year

    Average Number of people employed

    Over 16 years
    Column 5. Male
    Column 6. Female

    Under 16 years
    Column 7. Boys
    Column 8. Girls
    Column 9. Aggregate amount of yearly wages in $

    Moving Power

    Column 10. Kind
    Column 11. Nominal force

    Raw Material

    Column 12. Kind
    Column 13. Quantities
    Column 14. Aggregate value in $


    Column 15. Kind
    Column 16. Quantities
    Column 17. Aggregate value in $
    Column 18. Remarks

  • Reference to schedule 1

    Column 1. Page
    Column 2. Number

    Square pine – Number of cubic feet

    Column 3. White
    Column 4. Red
    Column 5. Cubic feet of square oak
    Column 6. Cubic feet of square or sided tamarack
    Column 7. Cubic feet of square or sided birch and maple
    Column 8. Cubic feet of square elm

    Cubic feet of walnut

    Column 9. Black
    Column 10. Other species
    Column 11. Cubic feet of hickory
    Column 12. Cubic feet of all other square or sided timber
    Column 13. Number of census standard pine logs
    Column 14. Number of census standard spruce and other logs
    Column 15. Number of spars and masts
    Column 16. Thousands of staves
    Column 17. Cords of lath-wood
    Column 18. Cords of tall-bark
    Column 19. Cords of fire-wood
    Column 20. Remarks

  • Reference to schedule 1

    Column 1. Page
    Column 2. Number


    Steam vessels
    Column 3. Number of shares
    Column 4. Tonnage owned

    Sailing Vessels
    Column 5. Number of shares
    Column 6. Tonnage owned

    Column 7. Number
    Column 8. Tonnage owned


    Vessels and boats employed fishing

    Column 9. Number
    Column 10. Men

    Column 11. Number
    Column 12. Men
    Column 13. Number of shore men or graviers
    Column 14. Number of fathoms of nets and seizes of all sorts
    Column 15. Number of W. of fascines
    Column 16. Quintals of cod
    Column 17. Quintals of haddock, hake and pollock
    Column 18. Barrels of sounds and tongues
    Column 19. Barrels of herring
    Column 20. Barrels of gaspareaux
    Column 21. Barrels of mackerel
    Column 22. Barrels of sardines
    Column 23. Barrels of halibut
    Column 24. Barrels of salmon
    Column 25. Barrels of shad
    Column 26. Barrels of eels
    Column 27. Barrels of white fish
    Column 28. Barrels of trout
    Column 29. Other fishes per barrel
    Column 30. Barrels of cured rocs
    Column 31. Barrels of oysters
    Column 32. Gallons of medicinal cod liver oil
    Column 33. Gallons of other fish oil

  • Reference to schedule 1

    Column 1. Page
    Column 2. Number
    Column 3. Ounces of gold
    Column 4. Ounces of silver
    Column 5. Tons of copper ore per standard of 25% of metallic copper
    Column 6. Tons of iron ore per standard of 25% of metallic iron
    Column 7. Tons of pyrites per standard of 50% of sulphur
    Column 8. Tons of manganese ore
    Column 9. Lead and other ore per ton or otherwise
    Column 10. Tons of coal
    Column 11. Tons of peat
    Column 12. Tons of plumbago
    Column 13. Tons of lump gypsum
    Column 14. Tons of phosphate of lime
    Column 15. Pounds of mica
    Column 16. Gallons of crude petroleum
    Column 17. Barrels of salt
    Column 18. Cubic feet of grained marble
    Column 19. Cubic feet of building stone for dressing
    Column 20. Squares of roofing slate
    Column 21. Remarks

Common abbreviations


  • M (Male)
  • F (Female)

Marital status

  • S (Single)
  • M (Married)
  • W (Widowed)
  • D (Divorced)
  • L.S. (Legally separated)

Provinces and Territories

  • Alb. (Alberta)
  • B.C. (British Columbia)
  • Man. (Manitoba)
  • N.B. (New Brunswick)
  • N.S. (Nova Scotia)
  • N.W.T. (Northwest Territories)
  • O. (Ontario)
  • P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island)
  • Q. (Quebec)
  • Sask. (Saskatchewan)
  • Yuk. (Yukon)
  • More abbreviations for places of birth in Canada


  • Jan. (January)
  • Feb. (February)
  • Mar. (March)
  • Apr. (April)
  • Aug. (August)
  • Sept. (September)
  • Oct. (October)
  • Nov. (November)
  • Dec. (December)


  • B.C. (Bible Christian)
  • C. (of) E. (Church of England)
  • C. (of) S. (Church of Scotland)
  • E.M.C. (Episcopal Methodist Church)
  • F.C. (Free Church (Presbyterian))
  • M.E.C. (Methodist Episcopal Church)
  • P.C.L.P. (Presbyterian-Canada and Lower Provinces)
  • P.F.C. (Presbyterian Free Church)
  • R.P. (Reformed Presbyterian)
  • U.P. (United Presbyterian)
  • W.M. (Wesleyan Methodist)


  • Items to be counted as one were to be indicated by either a downward stroke (|) or the figure "1."
  • Items to be counted as zero were to be indicated by a dash (-) or the space was left blank.
  • A dash (- or --) was written whenever NO is the answer or there is nothing to be recorded.
  • The number “1” was written whenever YES is the answer.
  • Ditto marks (" or do) were used, except where specifically prohibited under the instructions.


The enumeration data were collected using 9 documents, known as schedules, which included a total of 211 questions.

  • Schedule 1, Nominal return of the living
  • Schedule 2, Nominal return of the deaths
  • Schedule 3, Return of public institutions, real and personal estate
  • Schedule 4, Return of cultivated land and products
  • Schedule 5, Livestock, animal products, home-made fabrics and furs
  • Schedule 6, Return of industrial establishments
  • Schedule 7, Return of products of the forest
  • Schedule 8, Return of shipping and fisheries
  • Schedule 9, Return of mineral products

Finding Aids

With some exceptions, most of the 9 schedules have been preserved. Schedules 2 and 6 include names. The other schedules do not. They are keyed to Schedule 1 by page and line number. In order to find out which schedules are available for each sub-district, consult:

Only Schedule 1, Nominal Return of the Living, is searchable in the database.

The other schedules can be viewed through the Microform Digitization tool.

Instructions to Enumerators

Instructions to enumerators were given on how to collect the names and other information in 1871.  Those instructions can be found in the Manual Containing "The Census Act" and the Instructions to Officers Employed in the Taking of the First Census of Canada (1871). Department of Agriculture (Census Branch). Ottawa : B. Chamberlin, 1871.

Published statistics:
Census of Canada, 1870-71 = Recensement du Canada, 1870-71.

Issues about this Census and this Database

Some census records have not survived.  Consult the list of 1871 Census Districts and Sub-districts to find out what sub-districts are missing. 

Electoral Maps

No electoral maps were created for this census. However, you may consult the Electoral Atlas of the Dominion of Canada (1895) - archived.

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